Being promoted to corporal was not the first time Walker took the role as a noncommissioned officer. When deployed in Afghanistan, he took on responsibility of a project NCO as a junior Marine.
Filling a billet that was meant for a Corporal or higher in a war zone, where decisions held high risks, did not faze Walker.
The real challenge was months later back at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, the Marine of the Year board.
“I was consistently put on boards, but I never came out on top of any of them,” admitted Cpl. Blake Walker, a Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 field wireman at MCAS Yuma. “So, when they told me they were putting me on the Marine of the Year board, my first thought was I had no chance.”
This is not what a sergeant in his shop saw in him.
“When he came in for the first time I could tell that he was determined,” described Sgt. Juan Figueroagalvez, a MWSS 371 assistant wire chief , when meeting Walker for the first time, April 2011. “You could see it in his face he was happy to be here and be the Marine we could depend on.”
A kind of determination and drive needed to become Marine of the Year.
Most of his foundation took shape in a not-so–ordinary childhood. With Walker’s father, Navy Lt Cmdr. David Walker,
being a Navy officer, military lifestyle was familiar to him. His father was constantly gone overseas but still had a huge impact on Walker’s life.
“My dad always taught me you do not lie, you do not steal and you do not do drugs,” said Walker, a recipient of two navy achievement medals. “I know those three things from the heart.”
With his father setting the influential stage to become Marine of the Year, Walker’s own deployment experience would put him in the spotlight.
Arriving in Afghanistan, the job Walker trained for deployment and did in deployment were polar opposites.
“Everything that we prep for went out the window,” said Walker, a native of Hampton, Va. “We weren’t going to sit there and maintain phones all day. We were laying in fiber optics.”
Understanding that this was a whole new beast to tackle and an important one at that. Walker took the role as project NCO and led his peers in lying approximately 40,000 ft of communication wires.
“He was our go-to-guy in Afghanistan,” explained Sgt. Erik Crozier, a wire supervisor with MWSS 371 and a native of Phoenix, Ariz. “He was that cutting edge in what we were doing.”
For Walker’s feats in Afghanistan he received his first of two navy achievement medals.
Now with everything in place Walker’s greatest challenge was waiting for him in Yuma.
Becoming Marine of the Year for MCAS Yuma.
Just as sports have state level and national level, the Marine of the Year board has squadron then entire base level. Once Walker won squadron, he went to the base level.
Pushing, molding and guiding him through the whole experience were three sergeants who he had deployed with; Figueroagalvez, Crozier and Sgt. Rene Rosado, a supervisor with MWSS 371 and a native of the Virgin Islands.
They coached him and made sure he was ready for the final task. Going over everything that a well-rounded Marine should know, from drill to kill.
Knowing how much those NCO’s meant to him, when asked why do you think you should be Marine of the Year Walker replied, “So I can prove that I am a direct reflection of my NCOs.”
And that is exactly what he did.
He won Marine of the Year for MCAS Yuma.
He emulated what it is to be a well-rounded good-to-go Marine and now Crozier has a new saying.
“I always tell my Marines if they act like me and be like me they will never go wrong. Now I am going to say that if you act like Walker and be like him you will never go wrong.”